Devika river, held sacred in popular culture, has remained a burning political issue in assembly polls over the last few years, but in spite of many promises, the river still remains polluted, exposing the tall claims of the administration and political leaders.
Every time during assembly elections, local and national parties highlight the condition of the river as an issue and assure commitment towards its improvement and development, but after winning the elections, they take no action, locals allege.
Social workers Anil Paba and Parvesh Kumar, who have filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Jammu and Kashmir high court regarding the deteriorating state of the river, said it was dying due to pollution caused by sewage discharged by houses, TB Hospital and fruit and vegetable markets. The condition had worsened to such an extent that nobody was ready to take dip in it, the PIL added.
Paba alleged that due to the apathy of politicians and the administration, the river's water had become unfit for drinking or bathing, and environmentalists, after checking the pollution level of the water a few months ago, had warned that there was high sewage contamination.
"The administration, to save its skin, had issued an order under Section 144 of the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC), directing local residents not to throw their septic waste or garbage in the river, but it has not been implemented," he alleged.
He added that political leaders had "exploited locals" in the name of Devika river during the elections, but had done nothing for its beautification and keeping it pollution-free.
Parvesh Kumar alleged that crores of rupees were supposedly spent on keeping the river pollution-free, but till date, no drainage system has been put in place. He added that an independent inquiry should be conducted by the vigilance bureau to ascertain the factual position of the funds, and bring to books all those involved in the scam.
According to a report of the Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Control Board, the quality of water in Devika river does not meet the prescribed standards. "The water is almost neutral, but is turbid and ionic in nature, and as such it is unhygienic for domestic and animal use. The deteriorating quality of the water is because of intermixing of sewage waste from Udhampur in the river," the report said.